During the summer of 2017, Christina Wodtke approached me and my classmate Melissa with the opportunity to work for her. She wanted us to redesign the website womentalkdesign.com, a side project she had been working on, and get it to a point where WTD could become an LLC. Christina started a GoFundMe campaign in order to hire us and it quickly gained traction, raising $21k in only a couple of weeks.
Over the next three months, for 600+ hours, Melissa and I worked together to become familiar with WordPress, conducted research on why women are underrepresented at conferences, and synthesized the information so we could figure out the best way to redesign the layout of the website. I am proud to have been a part of a growing company that has been taken over by the wonderful CEO, Danielle Barnes, and to see Women Talk Design hosting events all over the Bay Area to empower women speakers.
The team that made this possible over the summer:
In our very first meeting together at the start of the internship with Christina, we created a timeline of tasks that we wanted to complete, with major milestones every few weeks so we could keep track of our progress. This is everything we were able to accomplish from June to August:
- Became familiar with WordPress, getting used to the options available to us while simultaneously updating information about the women.
- Competitive analysis of other websites that promoted women speakers, or women in tech and design.
- Sent out surveys to both women speakers and conference organizers, then schedule listening sessions with a couple of them
- Synthesized the information we got from each of those sessions with a lot of post-it notes... a lot.
- Translated our findings into a Medium article titled “7 Things Women Speakers Say No to Speaking and What Conferences Organizers Can Do About It.”
- Systems thinking about the website through site maps and fishbone diagrams.
- Brand and content strategy with style guides and message architecture.
- Information architecture and governance with concept maps and a RACI chart.
- Redesigning the website with WordPress, many plugins, and CSS.
WordPress was not too daunting; it didn't take long to figure out the backend mechanics of the site and we spent the first few days updating the content. We added in speaker pages for new women who submitted a form, fill in missing information on existing pages, and reached out directly to women asking for any information that we couldn't find about them.
For competitive analysis, we looked at websites that were promoting women speakers or women who worked in the tech and design field. We compiled everything we found on a spreadsheet, writing down the features of their brand, their content, how all the information was organized, and what we found to be their strengths or weaknesses.
We created two surveys; one for women speakers and one for conference organizers. From the women, we wanted to know the basics of what they did to prepare for a conference and if they’ve ever had the experience of being the only women at an event. From the organizers, we asked for details on how they go about recruiting speakers and whether they keep gender balance in mind as they do. We reached out to a number of people from each survey and held quick conversations with each of them.
After our initial conversation with each individual, we scheduled a longer time frame for us to have a listening session with the ones who were available. The listening sessions lasted from thirty minutes to an hour, or in some cases two hours. We asked speakers about the thinking process they go through and the factors they consider when they're trying to decide if they should participate in a conference or not. Organizers were asked about the research they do and their recruiting process for speakers, as well as the thinking that goes behind the lineup and theme of the conference.
Once the sessions were over, we spent a whole week dedicated to synthesis by pulling key quotes and insights from each of the talks. Those were then put into two separate affinity maps; one for speakers and one for organizers. They were organized based on topics that were found to be common threads from our conversations and the topics naturally formed a step-by-step thinking process that people have gone through.
Sharing Our Findings
After synthesizing the information, we decided to write a Medium article so we could share our findings with the public. We realized a big problem was that conference organizers weren’t sure why some women would say no to speaking at their conference, so we gave suggestions for what organizers can do to alleviate any worries the women may have. There was also no communication between organizers, even ones that worked for the same event, so their knowledge wasn’t shared with each other.
Once the article was out to the public, we created a fishbone diagram in order to help others understand the main reasons behind the problem of women being underrepresented at conferences. It acted as a way for us to prioritize the information we would put on the site. We also started to think systematically about the redesign of the website using site maps. It helped us determine what information would need to exist and the hierarchy of which it would lie on a page.
Brand Identity and Content Strategy
The reconstruction of the site included branding and content strategy. We decided on what colors and fonts to use after we took another look at the sites we did for competitive analysis. With the help of some of our mentors, we were also able to do some work with message architecture to figure out the best categories we should have to organize the videos.
Information Architecture and Governance
We created some concept models in order to figure out the information architecture of the site, determining what kind of content would be important for which audience; either organizers looking for speakers or speakers looking to be a part of the website. We also developed a RACI chart to figure out the governance of WTD, so it could keep running smoothly once the internship was over and the launch took place.
Over the last few weeks of the internship, we learned a lot more about WordPress and the plugins that were available to us. We also did a bit of CSS in order to get everything on the site working in the way we had originally envisioned. We made videos the prime focus of the site, using code to create a filter that would allow people to search by multiple topics.
Near the end of our internship, we met with Danielle Barnes who was getting ready to take over as the CEO, in order to give her the necessary information that she would need to continue making WTD as amazing as possible.